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Finishing: AIDS/LifeCycle Day Seven 14 Jun 2022
alc alc2022 cycling

Waking up on the last day of big gay summer camp is always a downer. In the warm and muggy air of Ventura, the love bubble starts to pop and you’re left with one last bike ride before returning to the real world. This year was my second AIDS/LifeCycle, and I was not excited to wake up for day seven. Once the tent and gear were dropped off, my breakfast consumed, there was nothing but a measly 70 miles remaining for ALC 2022.


I also posted a thread to Twitter for today with more pictures


Camp closes up early on day seven, so everybody is awake early. The alarm rang at 4:15 and there was already a flurry of activity to hear outside. People rustling in their tents, zippers zippering, flip-flops slapping against heels, the deepened morning voices of tired cyclists and roadies. I followed my usual protocol of going straight to the porta-potties before heading over to breakfast, but since everybody was waking up, there was quite the queue for number two. I decided I could wait, scurried back to my tent to get dressed, tear down, swung by the gear trucks, and then found a block of line-less porta-potties en route to the food tent.

In the food line I did not grab “The Daily Spin”, the little camp newspaper that’s printed every day, like I normally do, and therefore miss a key instruction: gear trucks will not arrive at the finish line until 1pm.

Methodically chewing eat bite of my breakfast I planned my day: my knee was doing okay, but this is the last day and the last chance to go fast with some of these other riders. I figured that either way I was going to sit around at lunch to wait for the finish line to open at 11am, so why not try to get to lunch as fast as I can!

I have some short-circuit in my wiring that prevents me from “calming the fuck down” as Ride Director Tracy puts it. Riding fast with a group of other lunatics really is quite a lot of fun, and getting away from the main pack of cyclists has allowed me to enjoy the scenery much more than I had in 2019. Either way, this is the last chance to pedal hard with these folks until 2023, so I’m going to make every mile count.

Bike parking opens early and I roll out with the first 40-50 riders. We cruise along the boardwalk and into the city of Ventura for a little bit before meandering through some fields and suburban sprawl. I do a lot of the usual “on your left” routine before I get separated from some folks due to my speed and some red lights. As we ride by some naval base a bunch of fast riders come up, including the Triathelete, and I catch their wheel.

Bike friends!

The group is probably 9 people large and it includes some of the fast riders I’ve been chasing all week, plus a couple of new faces. We all cruise along together towards Rest Stop One, each keeping the pace and trading off pulls. After a while of keeping up at the number 3 or 4 position, I figure it’s my turn to pull for a bit, pop out to the left and throw down some power. My back wheel pops up a little bit as I do so, a bad habit I’m trying to break myself of, since a wheel in the air is not transferring power to the road.

The way I have found myself passing people has been to basically do a mini-sprint, something I’ve found useful in criteriums. The downside of this approach is that if the group is chugging along at 22mph or so, and I’m all of a sudden pushing 26mph, I’m going to push too far out in front. I accidentally turned “my turn to pull” into a breakaway. Oops.

The fun thing about this group of cyclists is that somebody follows my breakaway, and that just makes the whole effort feel very much like a normal crit or road race. I can feel the lactic acid building in my quads, thighs, and glutes. 545 miles of cycling has given me a lot of time to focus on getting every watt of power out of my legs, and leading out this group I’m acutely aware of each muscle involved. After a mile or so we all bunch back up and rocket onwards to Rest Stop One.

The Triathelete comments in the rest stop that he really enjoys following behind me. I’m able to push a strong pace, and I’m tall, so at his shorter stature he can tuck in behind me for a free ride. Somebody else comments how fun that bit of teamwork was, and that we’re all maybe a little competitive.

Once my routine is done, I leave the rest stop alone and push through the wind between the Santa Monica mountains and the Pacific.

At some point a cyclist I will come to know as Nils passes me, and as is my customary response, I sprint to catch his wheel and start to work together with him to keep a strong pace towards Rest Stop Two.

Nils is dutch, is about as tall as I am, has been cycling seriously since sometime last year, and is fast. He is inexperienced though, and I learn as we cruise along working together that he hasn’t really had much of this teamwork experience on ALC thus far. We trade off and on into Rest Stop Two, and then depart together to continue flying towards lunch.

Between Rest Stop Two and Lunch is Malibu. I hate Malibu. The Pacific Coast Highway is flanked on the east side by mountains, and on the west side by expensive homes and cars parked ever-so-slightly off the road. Everybody in Malibu drives like they’re the only ones on the road, and cyclists can get squeezed between aggressive drivers, and the door-zone from parked cars. The city is basically 20+ miles of coastline, and it sucks.

Fortunately the flying dutchman and I are making insane time. We spot a number of large cycling groups riding together on the PCH, which is genuinely cool to see. It seems like every cyclist north of LA has come to engage in battle with motorists for who should really get to own this stretch of beautiful highway.

At a stoplight some local cyclist with some aero kit, a fast looking carbon bike, and stacked legs pulls up next to us. When the light turns green, Nils takes off, followed by me, followed by the local. No more than a quarter mile down the road, the local flies by Nils and I.

Rabbit!

We have probably ridden 45 strong miles at this point, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to give chance. I pop out of the saddle and put in the best sprint I can muster to chase him down. I get within a few bike lengths but cannot get into his draft. Nils later told me that I had left him in the dust on that sprint too!

Disheartened I settle into cranking at my 21-22mph pace, which is meager compared to the local. Nils comes flying by me and says “why don’t I give it a shot!” So of course now I have to keep up with Nils in his sprint. His effort falls short as well, but we fall into a tight rotation and chase this local, less than couple hundred yards away, for the remainder of the PCH until we pull off for lunch.

I haven’t been smoked like that all week. Good lord was that dude fast.

Reviewing my app over lunch, I had put down 55 miles at a 20mph average speed. That’s not a straight 55 either, there were a lot of little rollers, headwinds, and stoplights in between mile 0 and lunch.

We talk a lot about racing, triathalons, and what motivated us to get into cycling while killing time at lunch. From here there are about 15 miles to the finish line, and we roll out at about 10:15.

The pace is slowed due to traffic, more climbing, and the general mayhem that comes with riding through Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. At one point a car almost turned right into my, leading me to loudly share some profanities.

The last couple miles of ALC are some of the more dangerous ones in my opinion, a very hectic urban environment with tired cyclists and weekend drivers.

I crossed the finish line at almost exactly 11:00am and ALC is over.


As luck would have it, I forgot to pre-arrange shipping for my bike. I just kind of forgot that I had to register ahead of time for it to be put on a truck and driven back to San Francisco. Instead I had to pay a bunch of money so my bike could be packed and that I could safely take it home on the plane with me.

I also didn’t realize that gear wouldn’t be there until 1pm, so I had to sit around in the shade chatting and napping until gear trucks arrived.

Once I had everything collected, my gear, my giant bike box, my sweaty ass, trying to get a giant car to carry all of my stuff to a hotel proved to be equal parts annoying and time-consuming. I ended up leaving Fairfax High School at about 3pm, and didn’t get find a shower until after 4pm.

The beauty of ALC as a cyclist is that you kind of just have to wake and ride your bike. Life on the ride is simple: eat, pedal, eat, sleep, repeat. Once ALC is over however, you are quickly reminded at how much other shit there is to do other than cycling.

From a cycling perspective, day seven might have been the most “put together” of the days on ALC. Great teamwork, good legs, and high speeds. I felt challenged and like I left nothing “out on the road” when I was done. The change in skill and perspective from 2019 to 2022 was significant, I can only hope that I continue to improve and 2023 that much better!